Raila Odinga: Is he fit to be Kenya's President?

Crystaballs depict him as a
 weak and incompetent President

 AS KENYA trudges on towards the next general elections, it is time to define our expectations of the next president. So far all activity is centered on  side-shows such as:  How to avoid violence come the next elections and how to create national unity. Peace is important in this country, but we also know violence is incited by politicians unwilling to cede power. My take on this is; with four Kenyans facing charges at the ICC over political violence, chances are nil that anyone would dare incite violence. That is therefore a side show.

The real issues are bread and butter issues and that is what this series hopes to bring into focus. This series will examine   a candidate’s suitability on the basis of four, nay five criteria, mainly bread and butter issues.
These are development policy, trade policy, Foreign Policy and his stand on integrity and respect for governance institutions. Where possible we shall provide evidence of a candidate’s competence or lack of it.

 Kenya’s development agenda is more or less cast in stone over the next 18 years or so. It is defined in the country’s vision 2030- the national long-term development blue-print. It aims to transform Kenya into a newly industrializing, middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens by 2030.

Vision 2030 calls for deeper economic diversification and widening of the domestic and regional markets through construction of infrastructure in transport and energy sectors.  It also proposes to construct an ICT City and five resort cities to diversify the tourism products and destinations. We are talking about creating jobs here, lots of jobs. We doubt whether any presidential candidate would want to tinker with this blue-print.

However, the supporting cast such as Foreign Policy, trade policy, integrity and respect for institutions of good governance can be tinkered with. We shall evaluate a candidate on the basis of the supporting cast.We shall evaluate the five or so top contenders for Kenya’s Presidency  starting with the current Prime minister, Raila Odinga, who claims to be the most population of the pack.

We begin with the foreign policy. Productive foreign policy must be accompanied by among others, economic gains. Kenya’s foreign policy was for many years- pro-west. In the recent past, this policy has proven an economic disaster forcing a shift to the East.

The shift to the East has paid dividends in the recent past with a flurry of investment in roads construction by the Chinese. We have also noted increased Japanese activity in the same sector, meaning that Japan is feeling the heat of the Chinese presence in Kenya.

Raila Himself appears to be a darling of the West, particularly the US and the UK. But the two giants are already on their knees steeped as they are, in economic crisis of their own. There does not appear to be an end to the crisis anytime soon. In fact since the 2001 dot com melt down, the West has been stumbling from one crisis to the next in a short span of time. So a shift of foreign policy to the West would take Kenya back to the era of shifting goal- posts. 

 That was the time when fulfillment of one condition for aid- led to another condition but no funds. Now we know that the West was broke and was too proud to admit it. Recently David Cameron, the UK prime Minister, rubbed Africans the wrong way when he suggested that Aid will be tied to respect for gay rights, a taboo subject in Africa.

In May this year President Obama of the US came out strongly for gay rights in the US. Would a Raila Presidency shift the country’s foreign policy towards the West? Would the shift be of any benefit to this country? The answer to the latter question is an emphatic NO.

Trade Policy is closely tied to foreign Policy. The trend now is for the foresighted leaders to forge close trade links with the emerging markets. In Africa, the trend is increasing intra-Africa trade, which is also foreign policy. Would a Raila Presidency support or stifle the growth in intra-Africa trade?

Uganda is the leading market for Kenyan exports in the world.  Last year, 2011, she absorbed US$904 Million worth of Kenyan exports, way ahead of UK-US duo which, combined absorbed only $862 million.  Four years ago, Uganda, for unknown reasons, occupied a piece of rock measuring about one acre in Lake Victoria. The rock called Migingo, provoked an outcry from the PM supporters that we feared a war with Uganda was imminent. 

The Kenyan President held onto diplomacy. A solution to the dispute is still being worked out. In the interim, Uganda imports have doubled from about US$500 million in 2008 to $904 million. If Raila was the Commander in Chief, would he have wasted public resources fighting with Uganda over a piece of rock? If his supporters’ views are anything to go by, then perhaps he would have done so with dire consequences on employment in Kenya.

In its Economic Report for Africa, 2012, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, UNECA, identifies strong political leadership as an important ingredient in the Continent’s growth to the next level. Such a leadership, says UNECA, is capable of mobilizing the population around a common national development vision.  Strong leadership, says UNECA, must be complemented by an effective institutional framework that delineates the roles and responsibilities of the three drivers of transformational change—the State, the private sector and civil society.

Does Raila Odinga respect institutions of good governance  in the country? The answer is No. He has little regard for the local judiciary and other public watchdogs such as the Controller and Auditor General, CAG, and is quick to sideline them. That is why he is quick to play to the gallery introducing red-herrings every time the spotlight is on him.  He prefers to run things through the press. He and his lieutenants give the legal processes a wide berth preferring political action instead. Observers fear that the rule Law shall suffer greatly under a Raila Odinga government.

 How about corruption? His MPs have refused to pay taxes citing some unconstitutional agreement. The PM has been unable to prevail upon his troops to obey the Law. This is not surprising,  his MPs are a bunch of Lumpen Proletariats who use their strength in Parliament to legalise immoral issues such tax-free salary for MPs, huge car grants and now a send home gratuity of US$45,000. Worse still, the MPs still propose to raid the public kitty to clear their tax-arrears, lest the new constitution bars them from seeking a public office

Three-years ago, the PM and his mob raided the national grain reserve and sold it leaving Kenyans starving. When he found himself  under pressure to explain what happened to the grain stock, a massive cover-up followed. The PM ignored all investigating agencies, instead choosing officials in his office to investigate the disappearance of maize. Kenyans are still in the dark regarding the findings of the investigation.

A few weeks ago, a scheme concocted  by one of his sycophants, the Minister for medical services came a cropper. The scheme is a medical insurance scheme for civil servants and teachers. In the scam, it emerged that the National Hospital Insurance Fund was churning out money to questionable medical facilities. By the time the scandal hit the headlines Ksh 900 million (US$10.24 million) had been siphoned off to some obscure account off-shore.

The PM quickly fired the board and put in place another one-an illegal act. Nothing is expected to come out of this. His record at fighting graft is appalling.

Observers fear that, putting this mob in power is like unleashing a bunch of wolves in a sheep’s pen. Is Kenya ready for this Mob? The jury is out there.


  1. Good critique but not balanced. Does anyone tell us if President Kibaki was a darling of the East before he got into office. When you get into power, you pursue options that yield fruits, which is what the current president or any other good president would do. Funding is always pegged on good governance and stability, no one including China would have put some dollars in Kenya when we are struggling with corruption and lack of vision.
    The reason we are reforming our institutions is because we recognize that they are neither efficient nor effective. It would be silly to think that those insitutions will serve an you when their heads have been appointed by your opponent.
    Lastly, we have a goverment in place and we are reforming the police and the Judiciary and we have a competent and indipendent DPP. If there is an issue of corruption in the PMs office, I think it would make sense for the DPP or KACA to pursue such an issue. What will transform this country into a prosperous one is not saints running state house but an adherence to the rule of law and that is why we are reforming our institutions. Even if the PM became president and a competent police force obtain credible criminal evidence against him, in the NHIF issue, he would be impeached on those grounds.

    1. Thanks for your comment. At least the project was not the kind of flop we thought it was.
      The analysis was not meant to be objective, because it was a risk analysis-a kind of what would you expect of this person should he occupy state house?
      What Kind of friends does he keep, what are his views of certain critical national values and ethos? What is his/her understanding of national interests?
      These are issues that should inform one's choice of an employee.
      A key question I'd ask you:would you allow a fox into the chicken coop just because you have good fencing around it? What if the fox killed all the chicken and waited for you do whatever you want with it?
      A good constitution-and ours is far from being a good constitution-Good institutions are a necessary but not sufficient condition for good governance. A person's Competence, understanding and character are also critical components.


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